ATLANTA—Andrew Fessler scattered eight hits and three runs over eight-plus innings to lead Georgia State to a 6-3, series-clinching victory over Hofstra on Sunday’s Senior Day at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Georgia State took two of three from the Pride to improve to 34-19 overall, 13-11 in the CAA, finishing the season with a 23-7 record at home. Hofstra fell to 24-26, 9-15 CAA.
Mark Hogan, one of GSU’s four seniors who were honored prior to the game, had two hits for the Panthers, as did freshmen Josh Merrigan and Matt Rose, while Rose, Chad Prain, Chase Raffield, Caden Bailey and Chris Triplett drove in runs today.
But Fessler was the story for the Panthers, who scored six runs in the first two innings and then let their junior left-hander do the rest. Fessler struck out five to improve to 6-1 on the season.
“Hofstra is a veteran team so you know home or away, they are going to play you tough,” said Hogan. “We had three hard-fought games, and on Sunday, we just outscrapped them. Andrew Fessler had a great game on the mound, and the big inning early was huge.”
Fessler allowed two runs in the third inning, when the Pride strung together four straight singles, but he got out of the jam with an inning-ending double play. From there he faced just two over the minimum over the next five innings, allowing one run in the sixth when Matt Reistetter led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Nardo. Fessler helped himself by picking off two runners, both in the fourth inning.
He took the mound in the ninth inning and surrendered a leadoff walk to Nardo. Fessler then went to a 3-1 count on Kevin Brantley before giving way to reliever Jerry Stuckey. Stuckey got a called strike two on his first pitch and then after several foul balls, he got Brantley to fly out to right field. The sophomore righty struck out Bryan Verbitsky looking and then ended the game and earned his third save when T.J. Ehrsam popped up.
“He just gives you a really good start every Sunday,” Hogan said of Fessler. “You can rely on Fez. He’s going to put the ball in the zone, he’s going to mix it up, and he’s got an incredible changeup. Regardless of what we do on offense, you know he’s going to give you a chance to win, and that’s huge.”
Georgia State jumped in front with four runs in the first inning. Merrigan, the freshman center fielder, led off the game for the Panthers with a triple to right field corner, his fifth triple of the season that extended his current hitting streak to 15 games.
Merrigan scored on Chad Prain’s ground ball that was thrown wildly by the shortstop, allowing Prain to reach second. Chase Raffield followed with a single up the middle to drive in Prain. Raffield moved to third on a groundout and a wild pitch, and then Chris Triplett delivered a two-out, run-scoring single through the left side.
After an infield single by Hogan, Rose’s popup dropped in short right field for a double, bringing home Triplett and giving GSU the early 4-0 lead.
Georgia State added to its lead in the second inning as Merrigan led off with single up the middle off starter David D’Errico (3-4), and Prain followed with a single to left field. With two outs, Merrigan and Prain moved up with stolen bases, and Caden Bailey brought home Merrigan with an infield single. With runners at first and third, D’Errico was called for a balk, allowing Prain to score and giving the Panthers a 6-0 advantage.
“It was awesome,” Hogan said of getting the win in his final home game. “I’ve really enjoyed my two springs here at Panthersville. We have an awesome field, and our guys work hard to keep it in great shape, which all the players appreciate. We had a nice thing going at home this year. To play on a team that defends our home field was special, and I’ll remember that.”
Sarratt was enjoying an outstanding season as GSU’s primary catcher when the Johnny Bench Award Watch List member suffered a broken bone in his hand at James Madison on April 20. With his left (catching) hand in a cast, Sarratt was in the lineup as the starting catcher, and he caught the first pitch from Fessler before leaving the game to an ovation from the crowd and both teams.
“That was probably one of the greatest baseball moments I’ve ever had,” said Sarratt after the game. “Coach Frady surprised me today by telling me that I was going to catch the first pitch, and I honestly didn’t know what to say. At first I wondered how I was going to catch with my right hand, but then I remembered we have that (right-handed) catcher’s mitt.
“I was a little nervous. I knew I was going to catch it, but I wanted to make it look good. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. To turn around and see everybody cheering for me was just amazing.”
The Panthers close the regular season with a three-game series at William and Mary, beginning Thursday.